People have always had a need for social optimization – a sense of belonging, security, self-esteem and self actualization – the very same needs described in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in 1943. While basic consumer needs have never changed, their demands and expectations have.

Social media is the modern generation of Maslow’s theory and the social web revolves around social interactions – social interactions between friends, family, colleagues, customers and brands.

Effective marketing is about how well companies can blend digital with traditional media in the social customer era. If companies are going to use social media then they need to realize and expect that their customer will put more demands on them. They will expect immediate response and they will expect instant interaction. Social media is not about reinventing the wheel; it is about changing how companies can respond to these demanding customer’s needs.

Before embarking on a social media campaign, companies need to know where their audience is; are they online, are they on social media platforms and are they accessing it via their mobile devices. Once companies have established that they are, they then need to think about how they can use their existing traditional marketing channels to push people to their social places.

When planning their social media campaigns, companies should carefully consider who they intend to use it for; is it for existing customers only or do they want to use it to attract new customers too. They should also consider the overall purpose of wanting to use social media, whether it is to attract, grow or retain customers. It may be worthwhile to devise separate social media strategies for new customers and existing ones.

Every campaign will be different and with its own purpose, and every campaign should be integrated at all relevant touch points. But before launching into these campaigns, companies need to do their homework first. They should listen to their audiences, then start engaging and only then should they start their own conversations. Each platform has its own unique tone, audience and purpose. Facebook for instance, is purely social. If companies are going to post to Facebook as a brand, it must be in a conversational and social style that ties in with the customer’s social style, while still remaining true to the brand.

Once a company has committed to a presence on a particular platform, they should ensure that they are consistently and continuously responsive in the most humane (and not automated) way. Companies should continuously monitor the responses to those key action points that would have been defined at the off-set.

When planning a social media campaign, companies should remember that content is still king, and the content should be very relevant to the social platform selected. When preparing the content plan, companies should devise a long-term strategy that will be engaging, while continuously meeting the ongoing needs and demands of the community. Many companies may plan their social media editorial calendars well in advance, however they always remember to allow themselves to be led by the social media in regards to what they say and when.